What Is The Church Of Christ? Allan Turner


What Is The Church Of Christ?
Allan Turner

Many are confused by the expression “church of Christ.” They think “church of Christ” is terminology that identifies only a small segment of Christians, namely, “the Church of Christ denomination.” This is simply not true.
The “My Church” of Matthew 16:18
In Matthew 16:18, Jesus Christ said, “I will build my church.” It is the “my church,” or church belonging to Christ (i.e., Christ's church), of this passage that we wish to consider in this study, and not some religious denomination. In order to appreciate this lesson, we ask you to set aside all religious prejudice and denominational bias, and simply consider the truths taught in God's Word on this most important subject.
One Body And One Church
In Ephesians 4:4, we learn that there is but one body. In Colossians 1:18, we learn that this “one body” is none other than the church belonging to Christ. In other words, the “my church” of Matthew 16:18 is the body, or church, of Christ (Ephesians 1:22).
In Ephesians 2:16, we learn that all mankind, whether Jew or Gentile, is reconciled in the body “by the cross” (cf. v. 13). Consequently, it does not surprise us to learn that the church (His body) was purchased by Jesus' blood on the cross (Acts 20:28). Therefore, those who are identified as being in the body are also described as being blood-bought (I Corinthians 6:20; I Peter 1:18,19). To be in Christ, then, is to be in His body, and to be in His body is to be in His church. If this is true, and the Bible clearly teaches us that it is, then a significant question would be: “How does one get into the church, or body, of Christ?”
The Lord Adds To His Church Those Who Obey Him
In Acts 2:47, we learn that “the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” This is certainly as it should be, because Christ is the “author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him” (Hebrews 5:9). In order to be saved and added to the Lord's church, one must be willing to obey Him. In I Samuel 15:22, Samuel, guided by the Holy Spirit, informed Saul that “to obey is better than sacrifice.” The apostle John, inspired by the same Spirit that inspired Samuel, wrote, “He that saith I know Him and keepeth not His commandments is a liar and the truth is not in Him” (I John 2:4).
Obedience Is Absolutely Necessary
The Lord said, “If ye believe not that I am He, ye shall die in your sins” (John 8:24). In Acts 17:30, the apostle Paul said, “God now commandeth all men everywhere to repent.” In Romans 10:10, we are taught that in order to be saved one must be willing to confess Jesus Christ (cf. Matthew 10:32,33). While many are willing to acknowledge the importance of belief, repentance, and confession of Jesus as Lord in relationship to salvation by grace, they reject the idea that baptism has anything at all to do with salvation. This, of course, is terribly unfortunate, because the Bible unequivocally teaches that baptism, like belief, repentance, and confession, is absolutely necessary in order to be saved. If you doubt this, then we challenge you to invest a little of your time in contemplating the scriptures we are about to consider.
Baptized Into Christ
In Galatians 3:27, Paul makes it quite clear that we are “baptized into Christ.” In other words, we are “baptized into one body”(I Corinthians 12:13). Unquestionably, then, one cannot be “in Christ” (i.e., in a saving relationship with Him) unless one has been baptized. This is why baptism is said to be “for [i.e., unto, or for the purpose of] the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). This is why Saul of Tarsus was told: “And why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). This is why the apostle Peter said, “...baptism doth now also save us” (I Peter 3:21). And this is why the Colossian letter refers to baptism as the “circumcision of Christ” (Colossians 2:11,12). Under the Law of Moses, circumcision, the cutting away of the flesh, was a sign of being in covenant relationship with God. Consequently, the circumcision of Christ, the cutting off or putting away of the sins of the flesh, is a sign of being in covenant relationship with God through Jesus Christ. If you have not been baptized to “wash away your sins,” then you are not in a covenant relationship with Christ.
There Is A Relationship Between Jesus' Blood And Baptism
Often, those who believe that baptism is not necessary for the remission of sins teach that an emphasis on baptism somehow denigrates the blood of Christ. Such teaching could not be further from the truth. The Bible teaches there is a relationship between the blood of Christ and baptism (I John 5:8). In Matthew 26:28, we learn that Jesus' blood was shed for the remission of sins; but in Acts 2:38, we learn that baptism is for the remission of sins. Again, in I John 1:7, we are told that our Lord's blood cleanses us from sin; but in Acts 22:16, we are told that baptism cleanses us from sin. Once more, in Colossians 1:14, we are taught that Christ's blood saves us; but in I Peter 3:21, we are instructed that baptism saves us. How can this be? How can both the blood of our Lord and baptism be for the remission of our sins?
The answer is relatively simple. Our Lord's blood was shed in His death (John 19:34), and Romans 6:3 informs us that we are baptized into His death. Therefore, it is in baptism that one first comes into contact with the precious blood of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Such clear Bible teaching is not hard to understand; nevertheless, multitudes have failed to comprehend it.
In John 16:13, we are told that the Holy Spirit would guide the apostles into all truth. He did exactly that, and, in doing so, taught that Christ's blood was shed in His death that we might have the remission of our sins. Furthermore, He revealed that by believing in Christ, repenting of our sins, confessing Jesus as Lord, and being baptized in water by the authority of Christ, we could be saved (i.e., have our sins remitted). In other words, the “one Spirit” (viz., the Holy Spirit) has directed us to be immersed by the “one baptism” into the “one body” (i.e., the church belonging to Christ) where there is continued cleansing by the blood of Christ (cf. Ephesians 4:4,5; I Corinthians 12:13; I John 1:7-9). In I John 5:8, the Bible says, “And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.” My friend, if it is not in baptism that the Holy Spirit, water, and the blood of Christ agree, then where is it?
In Acts 2:40, it is said that, “...with many other words he [the apostle Peter] testified and exhorted them, saying, `Be saved from this perverse generation.'” Those who “gladly received his word [that day] were baptized” (Acts 2:41). Don't you want to be a member of the “my church” of Matthew 16:18, namely, the church or body of Christ? Then why don't you “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38)?
Perhaps there’s a church of Christ in your neighborhood. If so, contact someone there and I am sure they will be happy to discuss with you the church and its relationship to Christ. If you want to contact me by email, I will be happy to study with you further also. May God richly bless you as you continue to study His word.

"THE EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS" Chapter Five by Mark Copeland

                     "THE EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS"

                              Chapter Five


1) To see that liberty in Christ does not mean license to do whatever
   we want

2) To understand how one might be separated from Christ, and fall from

3) To appreciate the need to walk in the Spirit, and the true evidence
   of one led by the Spirit


With verse one, Paul reaches the climax of this epistle, stating what
can properly be called the theme of his letter:  "Stand fast therefore
in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be 
entangled again with a yoke of bondage."  He follows with dire warnings
about the consequences of seeking to be circumcised and justified by 
the Law.  He then reminds them that the hope of righteousness is for 
those who through the Spirit eagerly wait for it with a faith  working 
through love (1-6).

The next few verses continue with warnings about allowing others to 
hinder their progress, with Paul's harshest words reserved for those 
trying to impose circumcision.  Yet Paul does not want anyone to think
that liberty in Christ means license, and encourages them to use their 
liberty in order to serve one another in love.  The two-fold benefit of
this proper use of liberty is that one actually fulfills the Law, and 
at the same time does not give the flesh an opportunity to cause them 
to bite and devour one another (7-15).

Paul then stresses the need for the Christian to walk in the Spirit so
as not to fulfill the lust of the flesh.  He describes the enmity 
between the flesh and the Spirit, explaining why we must bear the fruit
of the Spirit instead practicing the works of the flesh.  Not only is 
there no inheritance in the kingdom of God for those engaging in the 
works of the flesh, but those in Christ have crucified the flesh with 
its passions and desires.  Having been made alive in the Spirit, they 
ought to walk in the Spirit so as not to be conceited, not provoking 
nor envying one another (16-26).



      1. A call to stand strong in the freedom we now have in Christ
      2. A plea not to be entangled again with a yoke of bondage (1b)

      1. If one is circumcised out of a belief it is necessary, Christ
         will profit you nothing (2)
      2. Observing circumcision as a necessity requires keeping the
         whole law (3)
      3. Attempting to be justified by the Law will separate you from
         Christ and you will thereby fall from grace (4)

      1. Through the Spirit and by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope
         of righteousness (5)
      2. Circumcision is inconsequential; what avails is faith working
         through love (6)


      1. Despite a good start, they were being hindered and it did not
         come from God (7-8)
      2. Beware of the influence of "a little leaven" (9)
      3. Paul is confident the Galatians will come around, and that the
         Lord will judge the trouble makers (10)
      4. A reminder that Paul himself was not preaching circumcision,
         with a strong condemnation of those who were troubling them
      1. Use our liberty to serve one another in love, and the Law will
         be fulfilled (13-14)
      2. Abuse your liberty, and it will be an opportunity to consume
         one another! (13b,15)


      1. Only then will we not fulfill the flesh, which is contrary to
         the Spirit (16-17)
      2. If we are led by the Spirit, we are not under the Law (18)

      1. The works of the flesh...
         a. Identified by Paul (19-21a)
         b. Will keep one from inheriting the kingdom of God (21b)
      2. The fruit of the Spirit...
         a. Identified by Paul (22-23a)
         b. Against which there is no law (23b)

      1. For they have crucified the flesh with its passions and 
         desires (24)
      2. For they live in the Spirit (25)
      3. Therefore they should not be conceited, provoking and envying
         one another (26)


1) What are the main points of this chapter?
   - A liberty that excludes the necessity of circumcision (1-6)
   - A liberty that fulfills the Law (7-15)
   - A liberty in which one is to be led by the Spirit (16-26)

2) What does Paul enjoin which serves as the theme of this epistle? (1)
   - Stand fast in the liberty in which Christ has made us free

3) What are two consequences of becoming circumcised in order to be 
   saved? (2-3)
   - Christ will profit you nothing
   - You become a debtor to keep the whole Law

4) What two things happen when one seeks to be justified by the Law?
   - You become estranged from Christ
   - You fall from grace

5) How are we to eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness? (5)
   - Through the Spirit, by faith

6) What truly avails something in Christ Jesus? (6)
   - Faith working through love

7) What saying did Paul use to illustrate the danger of the false
   teachers? (9)
   - A little leaven leavens the whole lump

8) What did Paul wish those who were so bent on enforcing circumcision
   would do? (12)
   - Even cut themselves off

9) What would be a misuse of our liberty in Christ?  How should we use
   it instead? (13)
   - As an opportunity for the flesh
   - To serve one another through love

10) What one command fulfills the Law? (14)
   - You shall love your neighbor as yourself

11) How does a Christian avoid fulfilling the lust of the flesh? (16)
   - By walking in the Spirit

12) If one is led by the Spirit, what is their relation to the Law?
   - They are not under the Law

13) List the works of the flesh as described by Paul (19-21)
   - Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, licentiousness, idolatry, 
     sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, 
     selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, 
     drunkenness, revelries, and the like

14) What will be true of those who practice the works of the flesh?
   - They will not inherit the kingdom of God

15) What elements constitute the fruit of the Spirit? (22-23)
   - Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
     gentleness, self-control

16) What have those who are Christ's done? (24)
   - They have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires

17) If one lives in the Spirit, what is expected of them? (25)
   - To walk in the Spirit

18) How would people manifest that they are walking in the Spirit? (26)
   - By not being conceited, nor provoking or envying one another

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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"THE EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS" Chapter Four by Mark Copeland

                     "THE EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS"

                              Chapter Four


1) To appreciate the significance and blessedness of receiving the 
   Spirit in our hearts (cf. Jn 7:37-39; Ac 2:38; 5:32; Ro 5:5; 
   8:11-17; 15:13; 2Co 1:22; 5:5; Ep 1:13-14; 3:16; 4:30)

2) To understand Paul's concern over the Galatians' observance of holy
   days (cf. Col 2:16-17; Ga 5:4)

3) To comprehend the implications of the allegory of Hagar and Sarah


In this chapter Paul continues and concludes his defense of the gospel 
of justification by faith in Christ, in contrast to seeking
justification by the works of the Law.  The previous chapter ended with
Paul making a practical argument, how that by faith they had become the
sons of God, the true seed of Abraham and heirs of the promise, when
they put on Christ in baptism.

The practical argument continues in the first part of chapter four as 
Paul describes the condition of those under the Law prior to the coming
of Christ.  They were "children", and really no different than slaves.
But when Christ came, He redeemed those under the Law and made it
possible for them to receive the adoption as "sons".  A special
blessing of this sonship was receiving the Spirit in their hearts, and
now they are no longer as a slave but as a son and a heir of God 
through Christ (1-7).

Paul then argues along sentimental lines.  After having come to know 
the true God and being recognized by Him, their observance of holy days
is indicative of a desire to return to bondage.  That greatly concerns
Paul, who would have them become like him.  He reminds them of their 
reception of him in the past, and he hopes that by telling them the 
truth he has not become their enemy.  Wishing he could be with them in
person and use a different tone, he feels like a woman going through 
labor again as he seeks to ensure that Christ is formed in them.  All
of this because he has doubts about them (8-20).

His final argument is an appeal to the Law itself, addressed directly 
to those who desire to be under it.  He reminds them of Abraham's two 
sons by Sarah and Hagar, and contends there are allegorical 
implications concerning the two covenants.  Hagar, the bondwoman who
gave birth to Ishmael, represents the covenant given at Mt. Sinai, and
corresponds to physical Jerusalem and the bondage of those under the
Law.  Sarah, Abraham's wife who gave birth to Isaac, represents the new
covenant and corresponds to the heavenly Jerusalem which offers freedom
to all who accept it.  With a reminder that those born of the Spirit 
can expect persecution by those born according to the flesh, Paul 
concludes his defense of the gospel of justification by faith in Christ
by proclaiming that those in Christ are of not of the bondwoman but of 
the free (21-31).



      1. The illustration of an heir (1-2)
         a. While a child, is no different than a slave, even though a
            "master" (1)
         b. Under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by
            the father (2)
      2. In like manner, they had been as children, in bondage to the
         elements of the world (3)

      1. At the right time, God sent His Son, born of woman, born under
         the Law (4)
         a. To redeem those under the Law (5a)
         b. That they might receive the adoptions as sons (5b)
      2. Because they are now "sons" (and not just "children")...
         a. God sent the Spirit into their hearts, crying out "Abba, 
            Father!" (6)
         b. No longer are they as "slaves", but as "sons", thus heirs 
            of God through Christ (7)


      1. They had come to know God, and to be known by God (8-9a)
      2. But they seem to desire to be in bondage again, returning to
         weak and beggarly elements (9b)
      3. Their observance of holy days gives Paul fear that his labor
         was in vain (10-11)

      1. A plea for them to be as he is (12)
      2. A reminder of their past relations with him (13-15)
         a. They had not allowed his physical infirmities to hinder
            their reception of him and his gospel (13-14)
         b. They were even willing to pluck out their own eyes for him
      3. Has he become their enemy because he tells them the truth? 
      4. They are being zealously courted by others, but zeal is good
         only when for the right cause (17-18)
      5. He labors over them again, that Christ might be formed in 
         them, wishing he could change his tone, but he has doubts 
         about them (19-20)


      1. For those who wish to be under the law, will you hear what the
         law says? (21)
      2. For we read Abraham had two sons (22-23)
         a. One of a bondwoman (Hagar), born according to the flesh 
         b. The other of a freewoman (Sarah), born through promise 
      3. These things are symbolic (24a)

   B. THE TWO COVENANTS (24b-31)
      1. The two women represent two covenants (24b-26)
         a. Hagar represents the covenant from Mount Sinai (the Law), 
            physical Jerusalem, and the bondage shared with her 
         b. Sarah represents a new covenant from Jerusalem above 
            (spiritual Jerusalem), which offers freedom to all
      2. As prophesied, the barren woman (Sarah) would have more 
         children (27)
      3. Those under the new covenant are like Isaac, children of 
         promise (28)
      4. Those born of the Spirit can expect animosity from those born
         of the flesh (29)
      5. But the Scripture says that the children of the free woman 
         (Sarah, the Jerusalem above) will be the heir (30)
      6. We are not children of the bondwoman but of the free (31)


1) What are the main points of this chapter?
   - Justification by faith:  The practical argument, continued (1-7)
   - Justification by faith:  The sentimental argument (8-20)
   - Justification by faith:  The allegorical argument (21-31)

2) What is the condition of a child, even though an heir? (1-2)
   - No different from a slave
   - Under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the

3) What was the condition of those under the Law? (3)
   - As children, in bondage under the elements of the world

4) When did God send His Son?  Why? (4-5)
   - When the fullness of time had come
   - To redeem those under the Law, that they might receive the 
     adoption as "sons"

5) As sons of God, what do we receive?  What is our condition? (6-7)
   - The Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying "Abba, Father!"
   - No longer a slave, but a "son" and an "heir" of God through Christ

6) What indication was there that the Galatians sought to be in bondage
   again? (8-10)
   - Their observance of days, months, seasons, and years

7) What did Paul fear? (11)
   - That his labor with them had been in vain

8) How had the Galatians received Paul when he first preached the 
   gospel to them? (14)
   - As an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus Himself

9) What were they apparently willing to do when Paul was with them?
   - They would have plucked out their own eyes and given them to Paul

10) What concern did Paul have in telling them the truth? (16)
   - Had he become their enemy?

11) Why did Paul wish he could be with them and change his tone? (20)
   - He had doubts about them

12) For those who desired to be under the Law, what story from the Law
    does Paul relate? (21-23)
   - That of Hagar and Sarah, and their sons

13) What do the two women represent? (24-26)
   - Two covenants
   - Hagar represents the covenant given at Mt. Sinai which gives birth
     to bondage, and relates to physical Jerusalem
   - Sarah represents the covenant in Christ, corresponding to the
     Jerusalem above which gives freedom to all

14) How are Christians like Isaac? (28,31)
   - We are children of promise
   - We are children of the freewoman, not of the bondwoman who
     represents the Law

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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Muhammad's Polygamy by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


Muhammad's Polygamy

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

Muhammad was the founder of the religion we know today as Islam. Through the centuries, much has been written that is critical of Muhammad’s multiple marriages. It is estimated that he had as many as nine wives simultaneously. The reported total number of wives is at least twelve: Khadijah, Sawdah, A’ishah, Hafsah, Zaynab, Umm Salamah, Zaynab, Juwariyah, Mariyah, Safyyah, Umm Habeeba, and Maymunah (Brooks, 1995, pp. 77-88). The usual Islamic response to this criticism is that Muhammad did not form these marriages out of lust or a desire for sex. Rather, the marriages were due to: (1) the desire to form alliances with diverse clans due to the swift expansion of Islam, thereby bringing peace with enemies by marrying their daughters; (2) the need to emancipate conquered clans by linking them to Muslim family clans; and (3) Muhammad’s desire to render benevolent assistance and care to widows (especially widows of men killed in battle), or to a displaced slave or captive (e.g., Pickthall, n.d., pp. 300-301). Muslim apologist Osama Abdallah offered the following justification for Muhammad’s polygamy:
Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him was a Messenger of God (filled with sympathy and mercy to people) and a leader for all Muslims. He didn’t practice polygamy for the sake of sexual pleasure at all. Most of his wives were either widows (older than him in age, too) or divorced women (also most of them were either older or same age). Only one of his wives was a virgin, and he only married her because her father was his best friend. He wanted to strengthen that relationship. And it was her father who offered her to our Prophet peace be upon him anyway.
If our beloved Prophet peace be upon him really seeked [sic] sexual pleasure, then he would’ve married young virgins from the Muslims. Back then, people loved Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him so much, that they would literally do anything for him. Certainly fathers would’ve given him their young virgin daughters if he wanted to. Many people offered him their young virgin bosomed daughters anyway to raise their families’ honor, but our Prophet never seeked [sic] that sexual privilege in life.
Because Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him was a smart political leader and a wonderful humble merciful true Messenger of Allah Almighty, he chose to marry the weak from his people to encourage the Muslim men to do the same; to create a balance in the Muslim society. Again, another emergency case that existed during Islam’s weak times that forced the Muslims (including Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him) to practice polygamy (Abdallah, n.d.).
Another defense of Muhammad’s polygamy is seen in the following general advocacy of the institution of polygamy [NOTE: “B.A.P.U.H.” stands for “Blessings and peace be upon him”]:
The ProphetB.A.P.U.H in his lifetime took eleven women in marriage. Majority of these marriages as described above were contracted due to cultural, social, political and moral necessity. In war when a large number of men are killed, the women outnumber men and in this situation, polygamy becomes a social and economic necessity. In case of chronically ill and infertile wife, polygamy prevents break up of marriage as the husband can contract another wife to have children. Polygamous instinct of men as compared to women is also recognised in science. Restriction of number of marriages to one for some men would most certainly encourage society to embark on adultery and prostitution. The modern world where such restrictions have been legally imposed is full of evidence to such evils.
It is universally recognised that laws, orders and limitations imposed on ordinary people are not enforced on special people chosen from among the people by themselves or by the Almighty Allah. Let us first take the rights of the leaders chosen by people such as kings, presidents, prime ministers, chief justices and general managers. They all enjoy special privileges, usually defined by the constitution or parliament of the country. When we do not object to these privileges given to ordinary men, how can we question the privileges given to the prophets? (“Polygamy,” n.d.).
Notice that the latter remarks justify Muhammad’s excessive polygamy on the basis of his special status as the prophet of Allah.
Of course, no one is in a position to know what was in Muhammad’s mind at the time these relationships were formed. Hence, no one can prove his motives to be either legitimate or illegitimate. If Muhammad’s polygamy is justifiable on the grounds that he was simply extending assistance to war widows, why not allow all Muslim men to take as many widowed wives as Muhammad? Even Muhammad could not accommodate all the widows of war. If their deprived and needy status was truly the issue, surely God would want all widows to be cared for in a similar fashion—thus opening the door to Muslim men besides Muhammad to marry more than four wives. The same may be said if polygamy is justifiable on the grounds of forming political alliances. Why not allow all Muslim men to assist with the strengthening of alliances, as well as the emancipation of conquered clans?
Regardless, these alleged justifications do not account for all of Muhammad’s marriages. A’ishah was only six years old when Muhammad claimed to receive dreams instructing him to marry her. He was past fifty at the time. What possible rationale can be offered to legitimize this intention? Much is made of the fact that Muhammad did not consummate the marriage at this point. Yet, it is admitted that he did so within three years when A’ishah was nine (see al-Bukhari, Vol. 5, Bk. 58, #234; Vol. 7, Bk. 62, #64). But whether he did so or not, the propriety of such a marriage, both in terms of the age of the child as well as the disparity in their respective ages, is appalling, repugnant, and, to say the least, unacceptable to the unbiased observer.
An even greater objection centers on Muhammad’s conduct with regard to the wife of Zayd, the freed slave whom Muhammad had adopted and reared as his own son. Seeing Zaynab, Zayd’s wife, in her home (some accounts say partially unclad) during Zayd’s absence, sparked the circumstances that led to Zayd divorcing his wife in order to accommodate Muhammad’s desire to have her. The shock waves that reverberated across the community elicited a string of curt, even stinging, revelations: (1) Surah 33:37, which declared the marriage of Muhammad to Zaynab as a “done deal”; (2) Surah 33:4-5,40, which clarified the previous revelation that forbade men from marrying the wives of sons by birth (4:23). The new revelation insisted that adopted sons were not included in the previous prohibition; (3) Surah 33:50-51, which granted special dispensation to Muhammad to exceed the Quran’s restrictive limitation of no more than four wives (4:3); and (4) Surah 33:53, which made three sweeping declarations. First, it chided visitors to Muhammad’s home for delaying their departure and overstaying their welcome. The guests who came to celebrate Muhammad’s marriage to Zaynab lingered longer than the Prophet preferred, delaying his desire to be alone with his newest wife. Second, it required all future conversations with Muhammad’s wives to be conducted with a veil or curtain separating the guest from the wife. Third, no Muslim was ever to marry one of Muhammad’s wives. Also, henceforth, Muslims were to invoke blessings on Muhammad (vs. 56).
Once again, for the unbiased, objective observer, this event brings the credibility of Muhammad and his revelations into serious question. In the first place, the Bible consistently represents God as impartial and perfect in justice (e.g., Deuteronomy 10:17; Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11; Ephesians 6:9; Colossians 3:25; 1 Peter 1:17). The God of the Bible simply would not grant special dispensation to one man over others. He would not exempt one person from a law while expecting others to keep it. Prophets and inspired spokesmen of God in the Bible were never given the right to sidestep laws of God—let alone laws that all men are under obligation to obey.
Second, how can Zaynab’s divorce from Zayd be morally justifiable on any grounds? Observe carefully the wording of the Surah that speaks to this point:
And it becometh not a believing man or a believing woman, when Allah and His messenger have decided an affair (for them), that they should (after that) claim any say in their affair; and whoso is rebellious to Allah and His messenger, he verily goeth astray in error manifest. And when thou saidst unto him on whom Allah hath conferred favor and thou hast conferred favor: Keep thy wife to thyself, and fear Allah. And thou didst hide in thy mind that which Allah was to bring to light, and thou didst fear mankind whereas Allah had a better right that thou shouldst fear Him. So when Zeyd had performed the necessary formality (of divorce) from her, We gave her unto thee in marriage, so that (henceforth) there may be no sin for believers in respect of wives of their adopted sons, when the latter have performed the necessary formality (of release) from them. The commandment of Allah must be fulfilled. There is no reproach for the Prophet in that which Allah maketh his due (33:36-38).
One cannot help but be suspicious. This surah is worded the way one would expect it to be worded if it were produced by a man, unguided by God, who was seeking to justify his desire for another man’s wife. Likewise, the unbiased observer surely is stunned, incredulous, and dismayed at the lax attitude toward divorce. Absolutely no justification existed for Zayd to divorce his wife—except to make her available to Muhammad, under the guise that it was an unhappy marriage (see Pickthall, p. 300).
What a far cry from the teaching of the New Testament. Jesus declared in no uncertain terms: “Whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery” (Matthew 19:9, emp. added). Jesus gave one, and only one, reason for divorce in God’s sight. In fact, even the Old Testament affirmed that God “hates divorce” (Malachi 2:16). The teaching of the Bible on divorce is a higher, stricter, nobler standard than the one advocated by the Quran. The two books, in fact, contradict each other on this point.
Separate from the question of Muhammad’s motives for contracting multiple marriages (whether to unite clans or aid widows), the more pressing question pertains to whether polygamy, itself, is a legitimate social institution—i.e., is it sanctioned by God? It certainly is true that plural marriages were commonplace in the Old Testament. Some prominent men of the Bible are said to have contracted multiple marriages, including Abraham, Jacob, David, and Solomon. Yet, this circumstance is simply reported (along with other violations of divine law) without any indication that God approved of it. One does not find the Bible stating explicitly that polygamy is God’s will. But that is precisely what the Quran does: “And if ye fear that ye will not deal fairly by the orphans, marry of the women, who seem good to you, two or three or four; and if ye fear that ye cannot do justice (to so many) then one (only) or (the captives) that your right hands possess” (Surah 4:3).
In contrast, quite the opposite is the case in the Bible. God ordained the institution of marriage at the very beginning of the Creation. He enjoined strict heterosexual monogamy (e.g., Genesis 2:24). Whatever human beings did throughout the centuries prior to Christ’s advent in their relaxation of the divine will on this point, God legislated one man for one woman for life. Disobedient man introduced polygamy into the world (Genesis 4:19). God tolerated (not endorsed) this sordid state of affairs prior to Christ, but with the institution of New Testament Christianity, God’s original intention for the human race received definitive reaffirmation and reinstatement: “Let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband” (1 Corinthians 7:2). Polygamy is sinful. Every New Testament passage that addresses the marriage relationship presupposes monogamy (e.g., Matthew 5:31-32; Mark 10:1-12; Ephesians 5:22-33; 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6; Hebrews 13:4).
Even as the church is represented as the bride of Christ (e.g., Ephesians 5:23-32), Jesus would no more have multiple brides than He would endorse men having multiple wives. In fact, God would be guilty of being a respecter of persons if He allowed men to have a plurality of wives, while disallowing women from having a plurality of husbands. Likewise, who could successfully deny that polygamy is damaging to the psyche and self-worth of women?
The Hadith confirms that Muhammad’s polygamy created jealousy, bickering, and bitter rivalry among his wives (see Brooks, p. 83). In fact, the Quran itself reflects this turmoil on the occasion of Muhammad adding to his harem the Coptic Christian slave girl, Mariyah. The bitter jealousy of his wives caused him to separate from her initially, only to reinstate her standing when the newly received surah commanded him to do so (Surah 66). The result was that Muhammad lived a month with Mariyah—undoubtedly spiting his other wives. Another surah then followed that reprimanded the wives and ordered them to make a choice as to whether they desired to be married to Muhammad (Surah 33). Was this special treatment extended to Mariyah, which punished the other wives by depriving them of their usual turn with Muhammad—a violation of the equal treatment clause of the Quran (Shorrosh, 1988, p. 65; cf. Lings, 1983, pp. 276-279)? Additionally, the consensus of the Islamic community has ever been that A’ishah was Muhammad’s favorite wife and that she received preferential treatment—a circumstance in direct violation of the Quran.


The religion of Islam and the Quran have a great many features that the Christian mind (i.e., one guided by the New Testament) finds objectionable. Polygamy is simply one among many such “difficulties.” The Bible and the Quran are in significant conflict on this subject.


Abdallah, Osama (no date), “When is Polygamy Allowed in Islam?” http://www.answering-christianity.com/polygamy.htm.
al-Bukhari, Sahih (no date), The Hadith, http://www.sahih-bukhari.com/.
Brooks, Geraldine (1995), Nine Parts of Desire (New York, NY: Anchor Books).
Lings, Martin (1983), Muhammad (Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions International).
Pickthall, Mohammed M. (no date), The Meaning of the Glorious Koran (New York: Mentor).
“Polygamy” (no date), http://www.answering-christianity.com/islam_polygamy.htm.
Shorrosh, Anis A. (1988), Islam Revealed: A Christian Arab’s View of Islam (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson).

The Question of Inerrancy by J.W. McGarvey


The Question of Inerrancy

by J.W. McGarvey

[Editor’s Note: The following article was penned by J.W. McGarvey and originally appeared in the May 27, 1893 issue of Christian Standard, reprinted in McGarvey, 1910, pp. 36-39. While the specific occasion that elicited the article has long since passed, the principles have not, since they still afflict the thinking of modern liberal theologians. We commend this timeless article to your consideration.]
I believe it was Professor Briggs who first introduced the current use of the term “inerrancy” in the controversy about the character of the original Scriptures. If he did not, he at least has given it its chief conspicuity in recent discussions. It is well-known that no intelligent man claims inerrancy for the printed Bibles which we now use, whether in the translations or the original tongues. The question has never had reference to any other than the language of the inspired writers, as distinguished from the alterations and interpolations which have been introduced by copyists and editors. In other words, it has reference to the autographic writing of the authors of the books. Instead of meeting the question fairly, those gentlemen who are so fond of an errant Bible, have taken a great deal of pains to obscure the real issue by throwing dust into the air. Professor Warfield, of Princeton, has an excellent article in the Independent of March 23, in which he scatters this dust, and lays bare the real issue in a most intelligible manner. We quote him:
We have heard a vast deal of late of “the first manuscripts of the Bible which no living man has ever seen,” of “Scriptures that have disappeared forever,” of “original autographs which have vanished;” concerning the contents of which these controversialists are willing to declare, with the emphasis of italics, that they know nothing, that no man knows anything, and that they are perfectly contented with their ignorance. Now, again, if this were to be taken literally, it would amount to a strong asseveration that the Bible, as God gave it to men, is lost beyond recovery; and that men are shut up, therefore, to the use of Bibles so hopelessly corrupted that it is impossible now to say what was in the original autographs and what was not! In proportion as we draw back from this contention—which is fortunately as absurd as it is extreme—in that proportion do we affirm that we have the autographic text; that not only we, but all men, may see it if they will; and that God has not permitted the Bible to become so hopelessly corrupt that its restoration to its original text is impossible. As a matter of fact, the great body of the Bible is, in its autographic text, in the worst copies of the original texts in circulation; practically the whole of it is in its autographic text in the best texts in circulation; and he who will may today read the autographic text in large stretches of Scripture without legitimate doubt, and, in the New Testament at least, may know precisely at what rarely occurring points, and to what not very great extent, doubts as to the genuineness of the text are still possible.
The Professor might have added that this autograph, thus accurately preserved, and now in the hands of every reader of the corrected Greek text of the New Testament, is faithfully represented to the eye of every English reader in the renderings and marginal readings of the Revised Version. For while, as the textual critics make plain to us, seven-eighths of the words of the New Testament are now printed in the very form in which they came from the original penmen, and nine hundred and ninety-nine thousandths of it absolutely so in meaning; and while we can put our finger on every word about which there remains any doubt; the marginal readings of the revised New Testament enable the reader who knows not a word of Greek to put his finger also on these words, and to know that all the rest are precisely those of the autographs. It is a most mischievous and deceptive device, therefore, originating from the heat of controversy, to speak of the autographic writing of the apostles as though it were lost to the world, never to be known again except by conjecture. Thank God, we have it in a purer form than our fathers had, even back to the early ages of the faith; and with this autographic writing in our hands, we stand before those who would criticize its representations, and say: Gentlemen, show us an error here which by a fair logical process can be certainly charged to the inspired penmen, and we will concede that to this extent their inspiration failed to guard against error. You have not done so yet; for all the specifications which you have made fail of this essential condition. We would caution them also to remember that there is the breadth of the heavens between infinitesimal errors of detail in a very few instances, and such errors as they are constantly charging upon the Scriptures, errors in which multitudes of facts, arguments and inferences in every part of the Bible are discredited at the good pleasure of every opinionated critic. The former would be a puzzle worthy of profound consideration and an earnest effort at solution; but the latter makes the Bible less reliable as a record of facts than Macaulay’s History of England or Bancroft’sHistory of the United States. We want no such Bible as that, and the coming generation will have none at all if that is the alternative


McGarvey, J.W. (1910), Short Essays in Biblical Criticism (Cincinnati, OH: The Standard Publishing Company).

Walking Down the Produce Aisle by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


Walking Down the Produce Aisle

by Kyle Butt, M.Div.

“Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them” (Matthew 7:17-20). When Jesus spoke these words, His point could not have been clearer. Every person or philosophy that produces bad fruit is evil, while those people and philosophies that produce acceptable fruit are good. Let’s assume the role of “fruit inspector” and investigate the “fruits” of creation and of evolution.


A huge debate has been undeway since 1973 when it became legal for a mother to end the life or her child through abortion. Every year in the United States, approximately 1 million babies are killed through this process. Is it right? Absolutely not! The Bible repeatedly stresses that it is a sin to “shed innocent blood” (Proverbs 6:17). God Himself recognized unborn babies as human beings. He told the prophet Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5). God values the lives of unborn babies, while our society—in violation of God’s commandments—has decided that these precious little people do not deserve to live.
What could cause a person to look casually upon the deaths of so many innocent children without lifting a finger to stop this holocaust? The concept of evolution provides one explanation as to why these murders are seen as “justifiable” in our society. One evolutionist put it this way: “Among some animal species, then, infant killing appears to be a natural practice. Could it be natural for humans too—a trait inherited from our primate ancestors…?” When the idea of evolution is taken to its ultimate end, then killing a human baby becomes nothing more than squashing a roach in your kitchen. Millions of innocent lives have been sacrifice on the altar of evolution. And all who have had a part in these activities will “give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead” (1 Peter 4:5).


On the opposite side of the coin, we need to look at the consequences of believing in creation. If a person believes that God created this amazing Universe, and that He created human in His image, then human life becomes very important. If a person believes that humans have been created in the image of God, then that person (if he is true to his belief) not only will value human life, but also will seek to protect it. Those who follow the idea of creation to its logical conclusion do not cling to the idea that “the strong should subjugate the weak” or that “might makes right.” Instead, the principles connected to creation lead people take care of those who are less fortunate and weak because of the value of human life. People who strongly believed in creation established most all of the hospitals, orphanages, and civic organizations in the world.
Also, when a person believes in creation, he or she must feel a certain moral responsibility to the Creator. It is because of this “moral responsibility” that many atheists have rejected God. The famous atheist Aldous Huxley once said: “I had motives for not wanting the world to have meaning…. For myself, as no doubt for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation…. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom.” In a world with no Creator, every person can do what he or she feels like doing without feeling obligated by any sense of “right” or “wrong.” However, once a person recognizes the Creator, then that person feels obligated to obey that Creator. This moral obligation leads people to help their fellow humans, be better citizens, and be better husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, and friends.
After inspecting only a few of the fruits of creation and of evolution, it seems clear that we need to take the axe to one of the trees—the evil tree of evolution.

What Should We Call the Church? by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


What Should We Call the Church?

by Eric Lyons, M.Min.

A visitor to this Web site recently wrote our offices inquiring about the name that the universal Church should wear. In a day when millions of church-goers are naming themselves after everything from angels to men to religious offices and activities (with many churches apparently feeling like the more bizarre they are, the better), this gentleman’s e-mail was refreshing to read. It was evident that he and those of the church where he worshipped had a desire to be called, not the latest trendy name or whatever denominational name their great-great-great...grandparents wore, but whatever God wants them to be called. What does God want the Church to be known as? If a congregation of the Church is going to put a sign outside of their meeting place, or put their contact information in phone books and on the Internet, or have an official name on the books at the court house, what name should the Church wear?

There is only one place to turn to find out what followers of Jesus Christ should be called: God’s Word (see Butt, 2007). God created man, saved man, and has every right to tell man what to do and how to do it. The teachings of Jesus Christ and His apostles and prophets in God’s revealed Word is man’s ultimate authority and the book by which the world will be judged (Matthew 28:18; John 12:48; Colossians 3:17). If the saved want to please God in every area of their lives, including the religious name they wear, God’s Word must be consulted.

It is helpful, first of all, to understand something about the word “church.” The Greek wordekklesia, translated “church” in most English Bibles, was generally understood in the first-century Roman-ruled world simply to mean “assembly”—a gathering of people, whether for a secular or a religious purpose (Danker, et al., 2000, pp. 303-304; Thayer, 1962, pp. 195-196). Three times in Acts 19, Luke used the term ekklesia to describe a disorderly, secular assembly at Ephesus (vss. 32,39,41). The Septuagint translators used the term ekklesia more than 200 years before Christ in their Greek translation of the Old Testament to describe a group of 400,000 Israelite soldiers (Judges 20:2). In short, the word ekklesia was used before and after the time of Christ in reference to any kind of assembly. In the New Testament, however, it most often refers to obedient followers of Jesus Christ—those who have been called “out (Greek ek) of darknessinto His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9, emp. added).

Several times in the New Testament, the term “church” is linked together with the Greek termtheos (God), and thus one easily can ascertain the fact that the Church to which obedient believers belong is the Church begun and owned by God. Paul wrote “to the church of God which is at Corinth” (1 Corinthians 1:2; 2 Corinthians 1:1, emp. added), and later commanded the Corinthians to “[g]ive no offense...to the church of God” (1 Corinthians 10:32-33, emp. added). He confessed to the churches of Galatia that he had “persecuted the church of God” before becoming a Christian (Galatians 1:13, emp. added). Paul also wrote to the Christians in Thessalonica, reminding them how they “became imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea” (1 Thessalonians 2:14, emp. added), and even boasted of them “among the churches of God” for their endurance through persecution (2 Thessalonians 1:3-4, emp. added). One must not miss the point that the Church of the New Testament is God’s Church. It is of divine origin and established according to Deity’s “eternal purpose” (Ephesians 3:11). Certainly then, the name “church of God” is a biblical name to wear. “Children of God” (John 1:12; Romans 8:16; 1 John 3:1-2) are members of the “church of God.”

The Bible writers also referred to the “church of God” as the body or Church of Christ. Why would God’s Church be called Christ’s Church? Consider the following:
  • Jesus is Deity (John 1:1,3,23; 10:30,33; 20:28; cf. Isaiah 9:6).
  • Jesus said the Church was “His” (Matthew 16:18).
  • Jesus paid for the Church with His own blood (Acts 20:28).
  • Jesus saved the Church from eternal destruction (John 3:16; Acts 4:12; Ephesians 5:23)
  • Jesus is “the head of the body, the church” (Colossians 1:18,24; Ephesians 5:22-23).
  • Jesus is the bridegroom and the Church is His bride (Ephesians 5:22-32; Revelation 21:9; cf. Matthew 25:1-13).
  • Jesus is returning to take His faithful Church to a new home (John 14:1-3; Matthew 25:1-13; 1 Corinthians 15:24; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
Sincere, open-minded, obedient followers of Jesus Christ (i.e., Christians—Acts 11:26) who read the New Testament wondering what they should call the Church of which they are members, will come to the following conclusion: Though God did not assign one particular title for the Church, there are biblical designations that Christians can wear “by faith” (Romans 10:17), namely “Church of God” and “Church of Christ.” [NOTE: This is not to say that everyone who wears one of these names is a faithful follower of Jesus Christ. Sadly, many who wear both of these names dishonor God with unscriptural acts of worship, a variety of false teachings, lukewarm lives, etc.) A faithful follower of Jesus Christ must be committed to assembling with Christians who not only wear a scriptural, non-divisive name, but also who practice authorized, unadulterated, New Testament Christianity (see Miller, 2007).]

Nowhere in the New Testament was the Church called Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Pentecostal, Catholic, Guardian Angels’, etc. In fact, the Christians in Corinth were specifically warned about wearing divisive names that bring honor to men and imply that the Church is divided (1 Corinthians 1:10-17; cf. John 17:20-21). Sadly, millions of “Christians” around the world continue to call themselves by names other than those God has authorized in Scripture.

In addition to Scripture’s numerous examples of the Church being called God’s or Christ’s, common sense demands such biblical designations. Consider two examples.
  • If Christ owns the Church, should the Church not wear His name? If a man (we’ll call him Ricky) worked 20 years, saved his money, and bought a house, whose house is it? It is Ricky’s house. If anyone ever put a sign in front of Ricky’s house that said the house was any person’s other than Ricky’s, he would be doing that which is unauthorized and displeasing to Ricky. Only he who owns the house has the right to name it. The Church is “the house of God” (1 Timothy 3:15, emp. added), no one else’s. Christians should call His “house” by no other name.
  • If my wife informed me today that she wanted to wear another man’s name, I would be terribly hurt and “jealous with godly jealousy” (2 Corinthians 11:2-4). Perhaps it wasn’t another man’s name, but simply a name that correlates with something she likes. Say, for example, instead of Jana Lyons, she wanted to be called Jana Homeschooler. Would that bother me? It most certainly would. I love homeschooling, but I am seriously opposed to my wife calling herself by any other name than Lyons. Similarly, if the Church is the bride of Christ, why would any church claiming to be in love with Jesus and married to Him spiritually ever call themselves by another name? God is a jealous God (Exodus 20:5) and nothing in Scripture authorizes His Church to call herself anything other than after Him.
When the Jewish Sanhedrin brought Peter and John before them not many days after the Church had been established (Acts 4) and inquired “by what name” they had been teaching, Peter exclaimed:
[B]y the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone. Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:8,10-12, emp. added).
The Bible may not give one official title for the Church, but both reason and revelation demand that Christians put off party names and simply call themselves after the One Who saved them. When Jesus comes back to receive His bride and take her home, she better be wearing His name and no one else’s.


Butt, Kyle (2007), Behold! The Word of God (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).

Danker, Frederick William, William Arndt, and F.W. Gingrich, (2000), Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press).

Miller, Dave (2007), What the Bible Says About the Church of Christ,http://www.apologeticspress.org/pdfs/e-books_pdf/wtbsatcoc.pdf.

Thayer, J.H. (1962), Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).

Take Your Pick by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


Take Your Pick

by Eric Lyons, M.Min.

Nearly all credible historians will concede that a man by the name of Jesus lived and died in the land of Palestine about 2,000 years ago. Even most atheists accept the historicity of Jesus the Nazarene. There simply is overwhelming evidence that points to a man named Jesus who lived and died in the first century. In fact, just by acknowledging the “first century,” one is describing a time based upon the birth of Jesus. Our whole dating method is based upon this man called Christ [“B.C.” meaning “before Christ,” and “A.D.” (standing for Anno Domini) meaning “in the year of the Lord”]. Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and infidels (for the most part) all accept that Jesus was an actual human being.
However, even though most people who know some world history admit that Jesus was a real person, relatively few believe He was God in the flesh (as the Bible repeatedly emphasizes). They might say He was a good man, or that He was a noted philosopher or great moral teacher, but the fact is, the majority of the people in the world do not believe He was (as Peter claimed nearly 2,000 years ago) “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16).
Have you ever thought about what people actually are saying who deny the deity of Christ, yet believe He was a good man? They are saying that Jesus was not Who He claimed to be—the Son of God. They are advocating that even though Jesus accepted such claims of deity from men (cf. John 1:29,41,49; 20:28) and claimed deity Himself time and again (Mark 14:62; John 9:36-38; 10:30; et al.), what he said was not true. Yet they still hold to the assumption that Christ was a “good man.”
Realistically, there are only three explanations that one can give as to who Christ was: (1) He was the greatest liar, con man, and phony the world has ever known; (2) He was a lunatic who simply labored under the delusion that he was God; or (3) He was who He claimed to be—God. Logically speaking, no other choices exist. The view that Christ was a raving madman has rarely been entertained by anyone who is aware of Christ’s life and teachings. No lunatic could answer questions with such profound wisdom and authority (cf. Matthew 7:28-29). What madman would teach that we should do unto others as we would have them do unto us? The insane do not teach that we should “turn the other cheek,” and then set an example of exactly how to do that—even unto death. Lunacy does not produce such genius. For that reason, relatively few ever have been so foolish as to call Christ a lunatic.
Furthermore, not even the most celebrated infidels have been willing to characterize Christ as a con man or charlatan. Renowned infidel Henri Rousseau once wrote: “Yes, if the life and death of Socrates were those of a sage, the life and death of Jesus were those of a God” (Emile, 1.4). French humanist and staunch enemy of Christianity, Joseph Renan, called Jesus a “sublime person” and declared that in Him “is condensed all that is good and lofty in our nature” (Life of Jesus, chapters 1,28). The fact is, very few people throughout history ever have claimed that Christ was a liar or a lunatic.
But, if Jesus was not a liar or a lunatic, then logically He must have been who He claimed to be—the Son of God. One cannot profess sensibly that Christ was a good man, yet not the Son of God. Either He was both—or He was neither. Either Christ was a lunatic, or a liar, or the Lord. Take your pick, but choose wisely, for your eternal destiny is at stake.

What Now? Implications of the Human Genome Project by Trevor Major, M.Sc., M.A.


What Now? Implications of the Human Genome Project

by Trevor Major, M.Sc., M.A.

The ultimate goal of the Human Genome Project is to understand what makes us tick genetically. As a scientific enterprise, it presents no more ethical difficulty than research on blood types or the workings of our liver. However, the applications of this new understanding raise important ethical concerns.
Several key issues have dominated the public arena thus far. Chief among these is the question ofprivacy. If it is true that “knowledge is power,” should anyone know so much about our genetic makeup? A second issue is one of ownership. Who owns my genetic code, or a particular gene found in all humans? Is it right to patent “wild genes”—genes that were discovered in nature and not “invented” or modified by man? A third issue concerns the engineering of DNA in germ cells. With this technique, known as “germline gene transfer,” parents could make selective changes on their own sperm and egg—a mutant gene fixed here, a gene for high IQ spliced in there. Will this possibly lead to eugenics? Will it discriminate against the poor? These kinds of questions excite the public imagination and express themselves in disturbing images of the future, such as those in the movie Gattaca.
A more pressing issue for Christians is genetic screening. This can take the form of prenatal testing where the DNA of prospective parents is scanned for genetic diseases. A woman with a family history of hemophilia, for instance, might want to know whether she carries a gene that causes a failure to produce “factor VIII”—a critical blood-clotting protein. The defective gene responsible for hemophilia is recessive and resides solely on the X chromosome. This means that a woman could carry the disease on one of her X chromosomes, while a functioning copy resides on her other X chromosome. Unfortunately, the 50/50 mix of damaged and functional genes translates into a 50/50 chance of her children inheriting the disease.
Sons are of particular concern in these cases. As males, they inherit an X chromosome from the mother and a Y chromosome from the father, but the Y chromosome does not bear copies of the coagulant-producing gene. Without an alternate source for factor VIII, the body’s natural response to bleeding breaks down and even minor injuries can become life threatening.
What are the options? If our prospective mother learns that she carries hemophilia, she and her husband could decide against having any children at all. Or, if the woman does become pregnant, she could undergo amniocentesis—a process that involves the extraction and testing of fetal cells. Often, whether stated or not, the assumption of such testing is that abortion will follow the discovery of genetic abnormalities. Dr. Norman Gant, while serving as chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at the Health Science Center of the University of Texas, once remarked in this regard: “We are able to give our parents information on which to base real choices about continuing or terminating a pregnancy, and it is very reassuring to them during the remainder of their pregnancies” (1980, 87[3]:33; see also Rae, 1997, p. 138). If carried through, this most assuredly would contravene God’s laws against the taking of innocent human life (Proverbs 6:17).
New technology, however, could expand those options. Germ-line gene therapy, as we have seen already, could be used to repair the gene before conception. However, this probably would be followed by in vitro fertilization (IVF), which itself raises a host of ethical concerns (see Thompson, 1999, pp. 34ff.). Another possibility is gene therapy on someone already suffering from the disease. Recent studies have shown promise in treating hemophilia with viruses that can “infect” the host’s cells with a corrected version of the gene (Kay and High, 1999).
These mixed results typify the two-edged sword of modern technology. The fruits of the Human Genome Project could provide us with revolutionary new treatments or, at the very least, more information that we then could use to make critical decisions. At the same time, this newfound knowledge could lead indirectly to greater use of technologies, such as IVF and abortion, which present an immediate threat to the sanctity of human life. While certain scientific developments might make IVF more palatable (such as, for example, avoiding the production of “spare” embryos), abortion will remain inherently unethical. At present, women who decide to abort on the basis of their child’s health constitute a tiny fraction of all abortions (see Torres and Forrest, 1988; Bankole, et al., 1998). This could change, of course, if our ability to detect the disease outstrips our ability to treat the disease.
All of the issues discussed thus far center on potential applications of the information provided via the Human Genome Project. However, there are some deeper ethical concerns.
First, we have to watch our motivations as we use this new information. For instance, genetic prescreening, especially where there is a family history of genetic diseases, seems well within the bounds of Christian stewardship. A possible analogy is Paul’s advice that Christians remain celibate in the face of persecution (1 Corinthians 7:26-28). This is not the only reason to remain single, but it shows the Christian way of thinking through such problems. Likewise, there could be situations in which parents decide, after much study and prayer, to remain childless.
Yet, by opening up new vistas, technology tempts us with potential new rationalizations. Specifically, our reasons for having children could become contingent on technology. A child becomes, not an expression of unconditional love, but something merely tentative (Meilaender, 1996, pp. 53-56). The worthy ambition of not bringing further suffering into the world eases us gently into the conviction that the only child worth having is a healthy child. A couple enters into a pregnancy knowing full well that there is a 50/50 chance of having a child with something like, say, hemophilia, and yet plays a waiting game: “Let’s see what happens,” they reason, “and we’ll terminate the pregnancy if things don’t go our way.” What we lose in the end is our doctrine ofimago Dei—of being created in God’s image. It is this doctrine, which gives intrinsic value to human life, that must motivate our decisions on life and death.
A second, closely related issue is the temptation to think that we are just our genes. Instead of blaming the devil, we choose to blame our genetic heritage—the old refrain, “My genes made me do it.”
A constant stream of far-fetched claims does nothing to help this crude form of genetic determinism. If the fabled accounts in newspapers are anything to go by, scientists have discovered “genes for” alcoholism and homosexuality. You might as well say that the Y chromosome must contain a “gene for” violence, given that being male is the best predictor of violent behavior.
Critics of genetic determinism point out that many traits involve multiple genes, some of which are influenced or triggered by external stimuli. When we are told that intelligence has a genetic component, these same critics are quick to assure us that various nurturing activities, such as breast-feeding and playing, can have a significant impact on a child’s IQ. And so the old “nature vs. nurture” debate rolls on. We are challenged to strike a balance between the “just so” stories of biology and the “just so” stories of psychology and sociology (Hull, 2000).
I am convinced that this is a false dichotomy. Certainly, we cannot deny that our genes and our environment have an effect on who and what we are. Yet one vital component—freedom of choice—is conspicuously missing from many of these discussions.
Determinists set themselves firmly against a deep-seated intuition that we do, indeed, have a genuine capacity to choose. To overturn this widely held conviction would require a massive body of evidence, not to mention some very powerful and convincing arguments. Instead, we are told that the chains of cause and effect are immensely complex and, besides, we never could know allthe events from the beginning of time. Such expansive hand waving seems to suggest that to be a determinist means nothing more than to be an agnostic in regard to the matter of choice, which is an awfully long way from proving that choice is illusory.
Why do we have such a strong intuition that choice is real? It comes, at least in part, from the people in our lives who rise above mere circumstance. These are the people of whom doctors would say, “They won’t live past their tenth birthday.” These are the people that police expect to be murdered, or in jail for murder, by their 25th birthday.
Popular author Bryan Appleyard writes often about his beloved niece, Fiona. Here was a woman who suffered from a particularly virulent form of muscular dystrophy and yet, who, in her brief 30 years, shamed anyone who would dare wallow in self-pity. Appleyard made the following confession:
Whatever anguish, irritation and despair I might suffer, I knew that I was a pampered, spoiled fool in comparison to Fiona. Others felt the same. She changed lives. At her funeral I met a man who, after meeting Fiona, had decided not to kill himself following a painful divorce. I also talked to the priest about her courage—an absurdly weak word for the colossal force that kept her going—and the effect she had on people. He smiled. “So much for the vanities of wealth and power” (1999).
Nature and nurture are not enough to explain the Fionas of this world. Even if we find the “gene for” stubborn survival, we never would be able to predict the environment in which Fiona found herself. Would a thriving family life have aided the expression of those genes? What about a life of poverty and abuse? Moreover, we never would be able to predict the environment she created around herself, and the influence she had on those who came to know and love her. It seems that humans can, but need not, surrender to the “destiny” of biology and the circumstances of life.
Our discussion of choice would not be at all complete without mentioning the will of God. Although His works often are hidden from us, God acts constantly to bring about His ends. Thus, the apostle Paul could ponder whether God intended for Onesimus to flee his earthly master—in order to return as a brother in Christ (Philemon 15-16). We cannot say, specifically, how God will achieve His ultimate purpose through the circumstances of our lives, or the choices we make.
As is so frequently the case, the changes wrought by new advances in technology areevolutionary, rather than revolutionary. They nudge us further down the slope, rather than causing us to jump the tracks completely. This should give us some measure of comfort, knowing that we can apply familiar principles to fresh new challenges. However, scientific knowledge isgrowing, and technology is advancing—sometimes at breakneck speed. The combined juggernaut is in danger of threatening to overtake public discourse. Christians most definitely need to stay abreast of these developments, and to stay far above the political and legal quagmire. No matter what the courts or politicians decide, we need to search God’s Word diligently for His teaching on these critically important issues.


Appleyard, Bryan (1999), “The Most Extraordinary Person I Have Ever Known,” The Toronto Star, Sunday, January 10.
Bankole, Akinrinola, Susheela Singh, and Taylor Haas (1998), “Reasons Why Women Have Induced Abortions: Evidence from 27 Countries,” International Family Planning Perspectives, 1998, 24[3]:117-127,152.
Gant, Norman (1980), “A Closer Look at Amniocentesis,” Science Digest, 87[3]:33, March.
Hull, David (2000), “Genes, Free Will and Intracranial Musings,” Nature, 406:124-125, July 13.
Kay, Mark A., and Katherine High (1999), “Gene Therapy for Hemophiliacs,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 96[18]:9973-9975.
Meilaender, Gilbert (1996), Bioethics: A Primer for Christians (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Rae, Scott B. (1997), “Prenatal Genetic Testing, Abortion, and Beyond,” in Genetic Ethics: Do the Ends Justify the Genes?, ed. John F. Kilner, Rebecca D. Pentz, and Frank E. Young (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans), pp. 136-145.
Thompson, Bert (1999), The Christian and Medical Ethics (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Torres, Aida, and Jacqueline Darroch Forrest (1988), “Why do Women Have Abortions?,” Family Planning Perspectives, 20[4]:169-176.